The influential French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique have given three prospective British & Irish Lions a New Year's boost by including them in their 2008 Dream XV.
Welsh Grand Slam backs Lee Byrne and Shane Williams figure among the threequarters, while Scottish scrum half Mike Blair wins the nod for the No 9 jersey. The 2007 XV included only one player from the four Home Unions, England and Sale Sharks prop Andrew Sheridan.
There are only two Springboks in the side - centre Jean de Villiers and hooker Bismarck du Plessis - while the form team of 2008, the All Blacks, provide four players. Dan Carter, now playing in France with Perpignan, is the only New Zealander behind the scrum, but Richie McCaw, Ali Williams and Tony Woodcock feature in the forwards.
There are three Australians, spearheaded by skipper Stirling Mortlock, two Frenchmen and one Italian, IRB Player of the Year nominee Sergio Parisse. The 2007 side included eight players from the World Cup winning Springbok side.
Midi Olympique Team of 2008
Lee Byrne (Wales); Lote Tuquiri (Australia), Stirling Mortlock (Australia), Jean de Villiers (South Africa), Shane Williams (Wales); Dan Carter (New Zealand), Mike Blair (Scotland); Tony Woodcock (New Zealand), Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa), Nicolas Mas (France), James Horwill (Australia), Ali Williams (New Zealand), Thierry Dusautoir (France), Richie McCaw (New Zealand), Sergio Parisse (Italy).
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.